Jam today, jam tomorrow

The Transport Parliamentary Select Committee recently published a report on road congestion titled “Out of the jam: reducing congestion on our roads” during which they took evidence from Mike Penning (roads minister) and Norman Baker (local transport) who seemed to present express coach as more of an irrelevant nuisance than as key tool in tackling congestion. They both implied that the fact that the M4 Bus Lane was used by express coaches rather than buses was an indication of it’s failure and was justification enough for its removal! Penning went on to explain that taxis should also not expect preferential treatment because they after all paid the same ‘road tax’ as private cars (road tax ended in 1937). They both claimed that the M4 bus lane wasn’t working even though their own research found that 21% of people coming into London made use it in a measly 7% of the vehicles. Penning ended by confirming that they had indeed been an unfair ‘war on the motorist’ and that motorists paid a lot of money for the privilege of driving and deserved better.

The tragedy of all this is that the approach they are proposing where low-occupancy vehicles have equal rights to inter-urban roads as high-occupancy vehicles is a certain recipe for jam tomorrow and for jam well into the future! What was encouraging however was that the committee didn’t seem to buy the argument. They questioned the ministers about coaches on a number of occasions and then recommended that “the Government publish early next year a detailed assessment of traffic flow on the M4 in the year since the bus lane was scrapped. If the evidence shows that the bus lane contributed to faster movement—taking account of all travellers—it should be reinstated.

Here are some key clips from their evidence.